NASA’s Messenger Mission has completed its close approach and flyby past planet Mercury obtaining the first close up pictures of that small world in over three decades. This is harrowing journey for the plucky little spacecraft and a powerful affirmation of the quality of science and engineering at NASA and JPL (APL?). In addition to matching velocities with the tiny, hurtling planet over a period of several years, the delicate instruments onboard this Extreme Machine must endure unprecedented, brutally rapid temperature swings, from a bone shattering 300° below zero to a searing 600° above.
Unfortunately, an unplanned scheduling conflict with another spacecraft will delay acquisition of all 1200 images. Mission planners were able to retrieve one wide angle shot of a side of Mercury never before captured [the shot at Bad Astronomy].
Speaking of the planets, this made me laugh.